Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
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There are many Kenny Rogers best-ofs, anthologies, and retrospectives, but all of them give short shrift to the particular genius that was the First Edition, his first major-league encounter with the music biz. Rogers had been slogging it out in the trenches since he began recording in his native Houston in the 1960s, but it wasn't until he and a few members of the touring cast of the New Christy Minstrels split off and started their own thang that it began to pay off. The 20 cuts collected here in a deluxe package full of great historical notes, reproductions of album covers, and excellent sound create one of those gems that effectively weighs in with another chapter in the mysterious and wacky history of pop during the late '60s and early '70s. From the band's second single (and before they became Kenny Rogers & the First Edition), the Mickey Newbury-penned "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," they were something special. Blending folk, country, Baroque pop, and psychedelic rock, the First Edition was a vocal group with an indelible sound. That their debut album charted (and its single reached number five) during the same year as Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Surrealistic Pillow, John Wesley Harding, Incense and Peppermints, and The Mamas & the Papas Deliver is saying plenty. And it was really the beginning of something grand that has been all but erased from the popular consciousness of the era. Subsequent singles that charted included"Reuben James," "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," "Tell It All Brother," "Me and Bobby McGee" (two years before Janis Joplin's signature version), "Something's Burning," "For the Good Times," and the funkiest, most rollicking version of Dallas Frazier's "Elvira" ever put on tape. Those are all included as well as 12 other tracks that document a band featuring not only Rogers but songwriter Mike Settle as well. Anthology is one of those documents that testifies to the glory of that era's pop music and its unique ability to be so sophisticated in its songs, performances, and production techniques that it comes across directly and simply.
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